Torres hopes to
renew Real rivalry
By Tom Adams - Setanta Sports
Having helped inspire Liverpool to blast
their way to the Champions League knockout stages, Fernando
Torres has now set his sights on renewing hostilities with
his old adversaries Real Madrid.
The Spain international – who scored the second goal in the
4-0 win over Marseille that secured Liverpool’s progression
– was an icon at Real’s city rivals Atletico before his
summer move to Anfield.
Rafa Benitez’s side will face one of Real, Barcelona, Inter
and Milan in the last 16 – as well as Sevilla if they finish
above Arsenal on Wednesday night – and Torres would relish
the opportunity to take on the Spanish capital’s more
fashionable and successful side once more.
"I hope that we draw Real Madrid, that would be a great
tie,” said Torres on the club’s official website. “We have a
chance to play a team from Spain or Italy, but playing
Madrid would be really good.
"It would be better to play a Spanish side than an Italian
one, although it would not be bad to meet Milan and gain
some revenge for the final last season.
"It can be a Spanish or Italian team. All the teams are
strong and to finish second is not the best.
"But it is all the same really, as we know that the level
will be very high.
"Sevilla in the Champions League have been strong and Madrid
and Barcelona are teams that aspire to winning the whole
Meanwhile, Javier Mascherano has hailed Torres as a
‘monster’ player after his goal against Marseille took his
recent tally to nine strikes in 11 games.
The Spain star is repaying every penny of his club record
transfer fee at present and Mascherano believes there are
few better strikers in world football.
“Fernando Torres is a monster of football," said Mascherano.
"For me he is one of the best forwards in the world at the
moment because he is able to make anything happen on the
We have to think about the Manchester United game and forget
about Reading. Sunday's game is key as we are both near the
top of the table.
"We cannot fail and it is necessary to play in the same way
as we did against Marseille.
"We won 4-0 and people might think that was because
Marseille are a poor side - that is not the case, we simply
imposed ourselves on the game."
Credit due for stunning show
By Tommy Smith - Liverpool Echo
When it’s needed most Liverpool have that
incredible knack of producing the performance they require.
Make no mistake about it , the mauling of Marseille ranks as
the best of the season.
The players deserve all the plaudits for their tremendous
show and Rafa Benitez, who I have had a go at in the piece
below, must be congratulated for the way his team went about
But I admit to being totally confused.
How can we play that badly on Saturday and then turn it on
last night? How can we pick up one point from the first
three Champions League games, look dead and buried (almost),
and then win our next three and score 16 goals into the
One minute you are watching the Reds, as at Reading,
thinking what the hell is going on. The next, you see a
European tie in which they were majestic.
Benitez put pressure on himself with Saturday’s result, but
it all evaporated in the two-goal salvo early on and
character of a brilliant team effort.
Perhaps the manager must take into account that players are
more durable than he thinks. They can play three games in a
When he picks his best team we can beat anyone. On this show
it doesn’t matter being first or second in the group. That
4-0 romp sent a message to all the other sides – and who
will want to face them on that form?
The difference in the last two games has been unbelievable.
We had consistency before Reading, let’s now have it from
here on, with our best team.
I was thrilled to bits. They meant business from the start,
effectively killing off the French side with the Gerrard
rebound and a stunning goal from Fernando Torres – what a
We were solid at the back, and were always going forward.
Kuyt’s goal settled it and Babel’s was the icing on the
Perhaps Rafa should tell his players they’re playing Real
Madrid on Sunday, followed by Barcelona in the Carling Cup
next week! Two more cup finals and, with the pressure on,
the Reds usually turn it on.
Well done, lads. Well done, Rafa. I’ll happily buy him a
drink next time I see him if he likes.
Carragher hails super Gerrard
By David Prentice - Liverpool Echo
Jamie Carragher today saluted
record-breaking skipper Steven Gerrard after Liverpool
stormed into the knockout stages of the Champions League
Gerrard became the Reds’ leading European goalscorer when
his early strike put them on course for an emphatic 4-0
victory in Marseille.
The goal took him beyond Michael Owen’s club record of 22 in
Europe and it was his 10th strike in the Reds’ last 11
Carragher said: “He’s definitely one of the best players in
the world. You look at Kaka and Messi, but they probably
play further forward.
“But for me he’ll go down alongside Kenny Dalglish as one of
the greatest players ever to have played for Liverpool and
at the moment he’s probably in the top four or five players
in the world.”
Gerrard also became the first Liverpool player since John
Aldridge in 1989 to score in seven successive matches.
But Carragher admits he was worried that his skipper might
not even get the opportunity to play a part in last night’s
Group A decider.
Just seconds after kick-off Gerrard crumpled from a fierce
tackle and lay prostrate for fully 30 seconds before getting
gingerly to his feet.
“I was worried because he doesn’t normally go down,” added
Carragher. “It looked like it might have been something
serious, but he got back up, carried on and won the penalty
The fact that Liverpool finished second in Group A means
that the Reds will face either AC Milan, Real Madrid, Inter
Milan, Barcelona or possibly Seville in the last 16.
But Carragher insists the draw on December 21 holds no
“We’ll be a big game for them as well don’t forget. When
you’re in the Champions League you play the best teams in
“It’s good players, the top teams in the best stadiums, but
if you want to progress you’ve got to beat the best.”
Asked if the result last night lifted pressure on boss Rafa
Benitez, Carragher added: “I haven’t got a clue. That’s not
up to us. We just get on with playing and at the moment
we’re doing all right and we just hope to keep it going.”
Benayoun: Only Liverpool
have done it
Yossi Benayoun’s belief that there’s only
one team that can win three games in a row and that is
Liverpool, has come true as Rafa Benitez’s side scored an
emphatic 4-0 triumph in Marseille to enter the last 16 in
the Champions League on
The 27-year-old attacker had joined the Reds during the
summer from West Ham United and was in danger of being out
of the Champions League in the group stages itself as the
Reds picked just one point from the opening three games
giving themselves a mountain to climb.
However, the Merseysiders then bounced back in commanding
fashion as they scored a whopping 16 goals to win the next
three games to book their place in the knock-out stages.
"Honestly, I always believed we could do it," Benayoun told
"Even at the time, I said that if there's one team that can
win three games in a row, it's Liverpool. This is a club
that's proved over the last few years that it can deal with
big games in this competition. We knew every game would be
like a final and we won three finals."
On the game in a hostile atmosphere at the Stade Velodrome
where the home side also had a lot riding on the contest,
the Israel skipper said: "We knew all about Marseille's
great fans so it was important to get an early goal.
"That gave us confidence and our second came soon after. It
killed the game and after that their supporters weren't so
Rafael Benitez hailed Liverpool's ability
to produce under pressure after the 4-0 win in Marseille saw
them make Champions League progress.
The win, sealed courtesy of goals by Steven Gerrard,
Fernando Torres, Dirk Kuyt and Ryan Babel, was the Reds'
third in a row in Group A.
After picking up just one point from their opening three
matches, they found form when they needed to with Tuesday's
victory at the Stade Velodrome following thrashings against
Besiktas (8-0) and Porto (4-1).
Benitez was delighted with the way his men handled the
pressure against Marseille, and said: "They players have
showed character in important games before and they have
showed it again.
"When we lost against Besiktas and played badly against
Marseille, I said we still had confidence.
"The team was still playing well in the league and scoring
goals. That gave us more confidence.
"People are talking about how good the side is compared to
last year, but we showed here that we can do different
"The performance was really good. We played compact as a
unit, played well in attack, had our chances and didn't
Benitez is set to have talks with club owners Tom Hicks and
George Gillett this weekend.
The Spaniard's position has been under scrutiny after he
publicly criticised the Americans' reluctance to release
more funds for the January transfer window.
He will hope the team's performance against Marseille and
subsequent qualification for the knockout stages puts him in
a stronger position heading into the talks.
He added: "I was not thinking about the meeting. I must
simply try to do my job.
"You could see the players, supporters, everyone were
together. Everyone wants to win and we should talk about
that, not the meeting.
"I am always confident - you can see that the players and
supporters are happy, and this is good for the future of the
"I am not thinking about my situation every day, I am just
thinking about my team and how they can improve."
One of the great results
By Adam Bryant - LFC Online
Jamie Carragher was happy after
Liverpool's 4-0 win over Marseille and believes it ranks
highly among Liverpool's best European games.
"We've done well over the last few years in Europe and
that's got to be right up there with some of the great
results we've had," said the Liverpool defender.
"We did know it was going to be difficult but the two early
goals put us in a great position and we've just played
counter attack and caught them a couple of times and
When asked about the situation involving Rafael Benitez and
the club's owners he added: "We just want to concentrate on
the football. As players we just concentrate on playing and
that's nothing to do with us.
"We don't need the publicity maybe, but that's up to other
people. We just concentrate on ourselves and are just
delighted to be in the draw in a week or so."
delighted with Liverpool victory
By Adam Bryant - LFC Online
Steven Gerrard was delighted with the
team's performance in Marseille, after beating the French
side 4-0 to claim a place in the last 16 of the Champions
"We've made it difficult for ourselves in this group," he
said after the game.
"We were disappointed that it had to come down to the last
game but we needed a big performance tonight, a performance
full of character and hard work.
"We know we've got the quality so we're very happy with the
"The most important word in the team talk was 'cup final'.
when the manager said it was a cup final situation, you know
you've got to give everything you've got. From the
goalkeeper to the front men today, every one of us did our
"The players concentrate on our jobs on the pitch. Whatever
the situation is off the pitch between the manager and the
owners that's between them.
"The players stay focused on the game because is we
concentrate on things off the pitch it will affect our
performance, so we keep focusing on the football."
roll over Marseille
By Alex Livie - Setanta Sports
Liverpool completed the great escape with
a 4-0 win over Marseille to book their passage to the
knockout stages of the Champions League.
A draw and two defeats from their opening three games left
The Reds’ participation in the competition in the balance,
but they seem to like to do things the hard way as wins in
their last three games earned them second spot in the group.
Liverpool may not have had The Kop to suck the ball in, but
they hardly needed it as Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres
knocked the belief out of Marseille inside 11 minutes.
Gerrard scored after four minutes, ramming home at the
second attempt after his initial penalty had been parried by
The drive of Gerrard was replaced by the silk of Torres on
11 minutes as the Spaniard slalomed his way past defenders
before stroking home to score the goal which silenced Stade
Dirk Kuyt may have been overshadowed by Torres, but the
Dutchman produced a fine display in his own right and he
added the third minutes into the second half which enabled
Liverpool to move into cruise control.
And with time running out, Ryan Babel skipped clear to put
some gloss on a scoreline which did not flatter Liverpool.
The pace was breathless from the outset and Torres had a
great chance inside 60 seconds, but he miscontrolled having
been found in acres of space by fellow countryman Jose
Marseille did not heed the warning as on eight minutes
Gerrard was allowed to drift beyond the home side’s defence
and he did not need a second invitation as he drove into the
box and was dumped to the turf by the desperate tackle of
Givet somehow avoided a red card, but Gerrard made him pay,
albeit at the second attempt, as he slammed home after
Mandanda had saved his initial penalty.
Marseille had hardly had time to regroup when Liverpool hit
them again and if ever a goal demonstrated exactly why a
manager opted to spend upwards of £20 million on a forward
this was it.
The danger was not obvious when Torres collected a pass from
Harry Kewell on the edge of the box, but the quicksilver
forward turned on the afterburners to leave three defenders
trailing before showing great composure to curl the ball
into the far corner.
Marseille were impotent as an attacking force and Erik
Gerets called for the ace in his pack on 31 minutes: Samir
The rising star of French football came into the game as an
injury doubt, but he immediately lit up the crowd with a
dashing run and a piece of skill which drew a foul.
Nasri may be good, but he is no miracle worker and although
L’OM played with far more purpose, the greater threat came
Gerrard went close with a free kick, Kewell fired over from
ten yards and Torres scooped over after leaving Julien
Rodriguez trailing in his slipstream, as Liverpool
threatened to run riot.
Gerets turned to Djibril Cisse at the start of the second
half, but they were dealt a sucker punch on 48 minutes and
once again the home side were the architects of their own
Mandanda’s clearance was awful, Kewell whipped a first time
ball into the box and with the Marseille defence static,
Kuyt dashed in to slam home the killer third.
Marseille fans stirred from their slumber just past the
hour, as Mathieu Valbuena’s dinked cross found Cisse and he
headed a foot wide of goal.
It appeared unthinkable before the game, but Rafa Benitez
was afforded the luxury of being able to rest players ahead
of Sunday’s meeting with Manchester United and he pulled off
Ryan Babel was introduced and he dashed onto a long ball
before rounding Mandanda and slotting a fourth as Liverpool
moved ominously into the last 16.